Abolitionists Abroad: American Blacks and the Making of Modern West Africa

Abolitionists Abroad: American Blacks and the Making of Modern West Africa

by Lamin Sanneh
     
 

In 1792, nearly 1,200 freed American slaves crossed the Atlantic and established themselves in Freetown, West Africa, a community dedicated to anti-slavery and opposed to the African chieftain hierarchy that was tied to slavery. Thus began an unprecedented movement with critical long-term effects on the evolution of social, religious, and political institutions in

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Overview

In 1792, nearly 1,200 freed American slaves crossed the Atlantic and established themselves in Freetown, West Africa, a community dedicated to anti-slavery and opposed to the African chieftain hierarchy that was tied to slavery. Thus began an unprecedented movement with critical long-term effects on the evolution of social, religious, and political institutions in modern Africa.

Lamin Sanneh's engrossing book narrates the story of freed slaves who led efforts to abolish the slave trade by attacking its base operation: the capture and sale of people by African chiefs. Sanneh's protagonists set out to establish in West Africa colonies founded on equal rights and opportunity for personal enterprise, communities that would be havens for ex-slaves and an example to the rest of Africa. Among the most striking of these leaders is the Nigerian Samuel Ajayi Crowther, a recaptured slave who joined a colony in Sierra Leone and subsequently established satellite communities in Nigeria. The ex-slave repatriates brought with them an evangelical Christianity that encouraged individual spirituality—a revolutionary vision in a land where European missionaries had long assumed they could Christianize the whole society by converting chiefs and rulers.

Tracking this potent African American anti-slavery and democratizing movement through the nineteenth century, Lamin Sanneh draws a clear picture of the religious grounding of its conflict with the traditional chieftain authorities. His study recounts a crucial development in the history of West Africa.

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Editorial Reviews

Books & Culture
In his most recent work, Lamin Sanneh offers a novel perspective on nineteenth-century antislavery movements.
Stewart Davenport and Wiebe Boer
Library Journal - Library Journal
Sanneh (history and world Christianity, Yale Univ.) argues that modern antislavery in Europe and America emerged from an evangelical Christianity centered on personal salvation that empowered a bottom-up social movement of ex-slaves, ex-captives, and their allies (Olaudah Equiano, David George, Paul Cuffee, and Samuel Ajayi Crowther, for example). These downtrodden outcasts created an "antistructure" in the form of an alternative community that broke old structural traditions as best illustrated by the Sierra Leone colony created by blacks displaced during the American Revolution. There, Sanneh argues, a new society based on freedom and human dignity formed a foundation for modern West Africa. Sanneh's complex argument demands close reading and promises to compel scholarly attention as it shifts the focus of antislavery to an Africa-based movement. For collections on anti-slavery movements, the Atlantic world, African American and African history, and the history of social activism in religion in general and Christianity in particular.--Thomas J. Davis, Arizona State Univ., Tempe Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780674000605
Publisher:
Harvard University Press
Publication date:
02/28/2000
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
6.49(w) x 9.56(h) x 1.01(d)

What People are saying about this

Abolitionists Abroad tells the story of the cultural revolution engineered by freed slaves who traversed the Atlantic--again--to help destroy Africa's peculiar institution. Engrossing, inspiring, impeccably researched, Sanneh's book will change the way you think about Africa.

Meet the Author

Lamin Sanneh is Professor of History and D. Willis James Professor of World Christianity, Yale University.

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